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International court seeks arrest of Russian officials over attacks on Ukrainian power plants

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International court seeks arrest of Russian officials over attacks on Ukrainian power plants
News

News

International court seeks arrest of Russian officials over attacks on Ukrainian power plants

2024-06-25 22:16 Last Updated At:22:20

THE HAGUE, Netherlands (AP) — The International Criminal Court said Tuesday it issued arrest warrants for Russia’s former defense minister and its military chief of staff for attacks on Ukraine's power plants, the third time the global court has accused senior Russian leaders of war crimes.

There is no immediate likelihood of either former Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu or chief of staff Gen. Valery Gerasimov being detained to face charges of war crimes and the crime against humanity of inhumane acts. Russia isn’t a member of the court, doesn’t recognize its jurisdiction and refuses to hand over suspects.

Still, the move heaps more moral condemnation on Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February 2022.

The warrant is the global court’s latest effort to intervene in a major conflict. Earlier this year, the court’s chief prosecutor requested arrest warrants for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, his defense minister and three leaders of the Hamas militant group over the militants’ deadly attacks in southern Israel and the ensuing war in Gaza.

Last year, the court issued a warrant for Russian President Vladimir Putin, accusing him of personal responsibility for the abductions of children from Ukraine. That has occasionally complicated his travel though the practical implications have been limited.

Russia’s Security Council dismissed the arrest warrants as “null and void” on Tuesday.

“That is empty talk, considering that the ICC’s jurisdiction does not include Russia and the decision has been made as part of the West’s hybrid warfare against our country,” it said in a statement carried by Russian news agencies.

The court said in a statement that warrants were issued Monday because judges considered there were reasonable grounds to believe that Shoigu and Gerasimov are responsible for “missile strikes carried out by the Russian armed forces against the Ukrainian electric infrastructure ” from Oct. 10, 2022, until at least March 9, 2023.

Judges who approved the prosecutors’ request for warrants said the suspects are charged with inhumane acts because there is evidence they “intentionally caused great suffering or serious injury to body or to mental or physical health” of civilians in Ukraine.

Under the leadership of Shoigu and Gerasimov, the Russian military has launched waves of missile and drone strikes that have killed thousands and damaged the country’s energy system and other vital infrastructure.

Moscow has insisted that it only has targeted military facilities despite daily casualties in civilian areas. The court alleged missile attacks covered in the warrant targeted civilian installations.

It added that in the case of any installations that could have been considered military targets “the expected incidental civilian harm and damage would have been clearly excessive to the anticipated military advantage.”

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy welcomed the warrants in a post on social platform X, saying both men are accused of “heinous crimes against civilians in Ukraine during Russia’s reckless bombing of Ukrainian critical civilian infrastructure. These barbaric missile and drone strikes continue to kill people and inflict damage across Ukraine.”

He added: “Every criminal involved in the planning and execution of these strikes must know that justice will be served. And we do hope to see them behind bars.”

Details of the warrants were kept under seal to protect witnesses, the court said.

ICC Prosecutor Karim Khan said in a statement that the decision to issue warrants “reflects my office’s continued commitment to give meaningful effect to the protection that the law provides to civilians and protected objects.”

Khan said his prosecution office “remains focused in pursuing multiple, interconnected lines of investigation in Ukraine.”

Putin removed Shoigu as defense minister in a Cabinet shakeup in May as he began his fifth term as president.

Shoigu, 69, has been widely seen as a key figure in Putin’s decision to invade Ukraine. Russia had expected the operation to quickly overwhelm Ukraine’s much smaller and less-equipped army.

Instead, the conflict galvanized Ukraine to mount an intense defense, dealing the Russian army humiliating blows, including the retreat from an attempt to take the capital, Kyiv, and a counteroffensive that drove Moscow’s forces out of the northeastern region of Kharkiv and from around Kherson in the south in the fall of 2022.

Shoigu, who had personal ties with Putin, got a soft landing with the high-profile post of secretary of Russia’s Security Council. At the same time, Shoigu’s entourage faced purges. A longtime associate and deputy, Timur Ivanov, and several other senior military officers were arrested on corruption charges, and other senior Defense Ministry officials lost their jobs.

Gerasimov, the chief of the General Staff since 2012, has so far kept his job. The 68-year-old career military officer has directly overseen Russian military operations in Ukraine.

In addition to the warrant against Putin, the court issued arrest warrants in March for two high-ranking Russian military officers on charges linked to attacks on civilian infrastructure in Ukraine that judges said happened “pursuant to a state policy.”

Last year, Russia announced indictments in absentia for a judge and prosecutor at the International Criminal Court who issued a warrant against Putin.

Find more coverage at https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine

FILE - Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu, right, gestures as he speaks to Russian Chief of General Staff Gen. Valery Gerasimov prior to a meeting Russian President Vladimir Putin with the top military brass in Moscow, Russia, Tuesday, Dec. 19, 2023. The International Criminal Court issued arrest warrants Tuesday for Russia’s former defense minister and its military chief of staff for attacking civilian targets in Ukraine.(Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP, File)

FILE - Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu, right, gestures as he speaks to Russian Chief of General Staff Gen. Valery Gerasimov prior to a meeting Russian President Vladimir Putin with the top military brass in Moscow, Russia, Tuesday, Dec. 19, 2023. The International Criminal Court issued arrest warrants Tuesday for Russia’s former defense minister and its military chief of staff for attacking civilian targets in Ukraine.(Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP, File)

WASHINGTON (AP) — She's already broken barriers, and now Kamala Harris could shatter several more after President Joe Biden abruptly ended his reelection bid and endorsed her.

Biden announced Sunday that he was stepping aside after a disastrous debate performance catalyzed fears that the 81-year-old was too frail for a second term.

Harris is the first woman, Black person and person of South Asian descent to serve as vice president. If she becomes the Democratic nominee and defeats Republican candidate Donald Trump in November, she would be the first woman to serve as president.

Biden said Sunday that choosing Harris as his running mate was “the best decision I've made" and endorsed her as his successor.

“Democrats — it’s time to come together and beat Trump,” he wrote on X, the social media platform formerly known as Twitter. “Let’s do this.”

Harris described Biden's decision to step aside as a “selfless and patriotic act,” saying he was “putting the American people and our country above everything else.”

“I am honored to have the President’s endorsement and my intention is to earn and win this nomination," Harris said. “Over the past year, I have traveled across the country, talking with Americans about the clear choice in this momentous election.”

Prominent Democrats followed Biden's lead by swiftly coalescing around Harris on Sunday. However, her nomination is not a foregone conclusion, and there have been suggestions that the party should hold a lightning-fast “mini primary” to consider other candidates before its convention in Chicago next month.

A recent poll from the AP-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research found that about 6 in 10 Democrats believe Harris would do a good job in the top slot. About 2 in 10 Democrats don’t believe she would, and another 2 in 10 say they don’t know enough to say.

The poll showed that about 4 in 10 U.S. adults have a favorable opinion of Harris, whose name is pronounced “COMM-a-la,” while about half have an unfavorable opinion.

A former prosecutor and U.S. senator from California, Harris' own bid for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination imploded before a single primary vote was cast. She later became Biden's running mate, but she struggled to find her footing after taking office as vice president. Assigned to work on issues involving migration from Central America, she was repeatedly blamed by Republicans for problems with illegal border crossings.

However, Harris found more prominence as the White House's most outspoken advocate for abortion rights after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in 2022. She has also played a key role in reaching out to young people and voters of color.

In addition, Harris' steady performance after Biden's debate debacle solidified her standing among Democrats in recent weeks.

Even before Biden's endorsement, Harris was widely viewed as the favorite to replace him on the ticket. With her foreign policy experience and national name recognition, she has a head start over potential challengers, including California Gov. Gavin Newsom, Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and Pennsylvania Gov. Josh Shapiro.

Harris will seek to avoid the fate of Hubert Humphrey, who as vice president won the Democratic nomination in 1968 after President Lyndon Johnson declined to run for reelection amid national dissatisfaction over the Vietnam War. Humphrey lost that year to Republican Richard Nixon.

Nixon resigned in 1974 during the Watergate scandal and was replaced by Vice President Gerald Ford. Ford never won a term of his own.

Vice presidents are always in line to step into the top job if the president dies or is incapacitated. However, Harris has faced an unusual level of scrutiny because of Biden’s age. He was the oldest president in history, taking office at 78 and announcing his reelection bid at 80. Harris is 59.

She addressed the question of succession in an interview with The Associated Press during a trip to Jakarta in September 2023.

“Joe Biden is going to be fine, so that is not going to come to fruition,” she stated. “But let us also understand that every vice president — every vice president — understands that when they take the oath they must be very clear about the responsibility they may have to take over the job of being president.”

“I’m no different.”

Harris was born Oct. 20, 1964, in Oakland, California, to parents who met as civil rights activists. Her hometown and nearby Berkeley were at the heart of the racial and social justice movements of the time, and Harris was both a product and a beneficiary.

She spoke often about attending demonstrations in a stroller and growing up around adults “who spent full time marching and shouting about this thing called justice.” In first grade, she was bused to school as part of the second class to integrate Berkeley public education.

Harris’ parents divorced when she was young, and she was raised by her mother alongside her younger sister, Maya. She attended Howard University, a historically Black school in Washington, and joined the Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority, which became a source of sisterhood and political support over the years.

After graduating, Harris returned to the San Francisco Bay Area for law school and chose a career as a prosecutor, a move that surprised her activist family.

She said she believed that working for change inside the system was just as important as agitating from outside. By 2003, she was running for her first political office, taking on the longtime San Francisco district attorney.

Few city residents knew her name, and Harris set up an ironing board as a table outside grocery stores to meet people. She won and quickly showed a willingness to chart her own path. Months into her tenure, Harris declined to seek the death penalty for the killer of a young police officer slain in the line of duty, fraying her relationship with city cops.

The episode did not stop her political ascent. In late 2007, while still serving as district attorney, she was knocking on doors in Iowa for then-candidate Barack Obama. After he became president, Obama endorsed her in her 2010 race for California attorney general.

Once elected to statewide office, she pledged to uphold the death penalty despite her moral opposition to it. She refused to defend Proposition 8, a voter-backed initiative banning same-sex marriage. Harris also played a key role in a $25 billion settlement with the nation’s mortgage lenders following the foreclosure crisis.

As killings of young Black men by police received more attention, Harris implemented some changes, including tracking racial data in police stops, but didn’t pursue more aggressive measures such as requiring independent prosecutors to investigate police shootings.

Harris’ record as a prosecutor would eventually dog her when she launched a presidential bid in 2019, as some progressives and younger voters demanded swifter change. But during her time on the job, she also forged a fortuitous relationship with Beau Biden, Joe Biden’s son who was then Delaware’s attorney general. Beau Biden died of brain cancer in 2015, and his friendship with Harris figured heavily years later as his father chose Harris to be his running mate.

Harris married entertainment lawyer Douglas Emhoff in 2014, and she became stepmother to Emhoff’s two children, Ella and Cole, who referred to her as “Momala.”

Harris had a rare opportunity to advance politically when Sen. Barbara Boxer, who had served more than two decades, announced she would not run again in 2016.

In office, Harris quickly became part of the Democratic resistance to Trump and gained recognition for her pointed questioning of his nominees. In one memorable moment, she pressed now-Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh on whether he knew any laws that gave government the power to regulate a man’s body. He did not, and the line of questioning galvanized women and abortion rights activists.

A little more than two years after becoming a senator, Harris announced her campaign for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination. But her campaign was marred by infighting and she failed to gain traction, ultimately dropping out before the Iowa caucuses.

Eight months later, Biden selected Harris as his running mate. As he introduced her to the nation, Biden reflected on what her nomination meant for “little Black and brown girls who so often feel overlooked and undervalued in their communities.”

“Today, just maybe, they’re seeing themselves for the first time in a new way, as the stuff of presidents and vice presidents,” he said.

Associated Press writer Matthew Daly contributed to this story.

Florida State University women's soccer player Jordynn Dudley speaks from the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, Monday, July 22, 2024, as Vice President Kamala Harris looks on, during an event with NCAA college athletes. This is Harris' first public appearance since President Joe Biden endorsed her to be the next presidential nominee of the Democratic Party. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

Florida State University women's soccer player Jordynn Dudley speaks from the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, Monday, July 22, 2024, as Vice President Kamala Harris looks on, during an event with NCAA college athletes. This is Harris' first public appearance since President Joe Biden endorsed her to be the next presidential nominee of the Democratic Party. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

FILE - Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden and his running mate Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., pass each other as Harris moves to the podium to speak during a campaign event in Wilmington, Del., Aug. 12, 2020. She’s already broken barriers, and now Vice President Harris could soon become the first Black woman to head a major party's presidential ticket after President Joe Biden’s ended his reelection bid. The 59-year-old Harris was endorsed by Biden on Sunday, July 21, after he stepped aside amid widespread concerns about the viability of his candidacy. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster, File)

FILE - Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden and his running mate Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., pass each other as Harris moves to the podium to speak during a campaign event in Wilmington, Del., Aug. 12, 2020. She’s already broken barriers, and now Vice President Harris could soon become the first Black woman to head a major party's presidential ticket after President Joe Biden’s ended his reelection bid. The 59-year-old Harris was endorsed by Biden on Sunday, July 21, after he stepped aside amid widespread concerns about the viability of his candidacy. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster, File)

FILE - President Joe Biden walks with Vice President Kamala Harris after speaking on updated guidance on face mask mandates and COVID-19 response, in the Rose Garden of the White House, May 13, 2021, in Washington. She’s already broken barriers, and now Harris could soon become the first Black woman to head a major party's presidential ticket after President Joe Biden’s ended his reelection bid. The 59-year-old Harris was endorsed by Biden on Sunday, July 21, after he stepped aside amid widespread concerns about the viability of his candidacy. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

FILE - President Joe Biden walks with Vice President Kamala Harris after speaking on updated guidance on face mask mandates and COVID-19 response, in the Rose Garden of the White House, May 13, 2021, in Washington. She’s already broken barriers, and now Harris could soon become the first Black woman to head a major party's presidential ticket after President Joe Biden’s ended his reelection bid. The 59-year-old Harris was endorsed by Biden on Sunday, July 21, after he stepped aside amid widespread concerns about the viability of his candidacy. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

FILE - Vice President Kamala Harris speaks at an event May 1, 2024, in Jacksonville, Fla. She’s already broken barriers, and now Harris could soon become the first Black woman to head a major party's presidential ticket after President Joe Biden’s ended his reelection bid. The 59-year-old Harris was endorsed by Biden on Sunday, July 21, after he stepped aside amid widespread concerns about the viability of his candidacy. (AP Photo/John Raoux, File)

FILE - Vice President Kamala Harris speaks at an event May 1, 2024, in Jacksonville, Fla. She’s already broken barriers, and now Harris could soon become the first Black woman to head a major party's presidential ticket after President Joe Biden’s ended his reelection bid. The 59-year-old Harris was endorsed by Biden on Sunday, July 21, after he stepped aside amid widespread concerns about the viability of his candidacy. (AP Photo/John Raoux, File)

FILE - Vice President Kamala Harris speaks at an event in Manassas, Va., Jan. 23, 2024. She’s already broken barriers, and now Harris could soon become the first Black woman to head a major party's presidential ticket after President Joe Biden’s ended his reelection bid. The 59-year-old Harris was endorsed by Biden on Sunday, July 21, after he stepped aside amid widespread concerns about the viability of his candidacy. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh, File)

FILE - Vice President Kamala Harris speaks at an event in Manassas, Va., Jan. 23, 2024. She’s already broken barriers, and now Harris could soon become the first Black woman to head a major party's presidential ticket after President Joe Biden’s ended his reelection bid. The 59-year-old Harris was endorsed by Biden on Sunday, July 21, after he stepped aside amid widespread concerns about the viability of his candidacy. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh, File)

FILE - Vice President Kamala Harris speaks in the East Room of the White House, March 18, 2024, in Washington. She’s already broken barriers, and now Harris could soon become the first Black woman to head a major party's presidential ticket after President Joe Biden’s ended his reelection bid. The 59-year-old Harris was endorsed by Biden on Sunday, July 21, after he stepped aside amid widespread concerns about the viability of his candidacy. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci, File)

FILE - Vice President Kamala Harris speaks in the East Room of the White House, March 18, 2024, in Washington. She’s already broken barriers, and now Harris could soon become the first Black woman to head a major party's presidential ticket after President Joe Biden’s ended his reelection bid. The 59-year-old Harris was endorsed by Biden on Sunday, July 21, after he stepped aside amid widespread concerns about the viability of his candidacy. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci, File)

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